Story of the Day:
Technomic – two thirds of UK consumers eat pizza once a month: Nearly two thirds of UK consumers eat pizza at least once a month and a quarter dine on pizza weekly, research by the insights firm Technomic has found. The figures come courtesy of Technomic’s Status & Outlook of the UK Pizza Category and Its Customers study, released this month in co-operation with the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association. The research found younger consumers drive pizza consumption and away-from-home pizza purchases. Nearly two thirds (65%) of consumers ages 18 to 34, against just over half (52%) of those aged 35 and older, order pizza for eat-in at a restaurant at least monthly. Retail pizza purchases beat dine-in orders among all consumers: two thirds (66%) of UK consumers across all age groups buy chilled or frozen pizza at retail at least monthly. Technomic’s vice-president, Darren Tristano, said: “Pizza’s strong popularity at retail outlets suggests an opportunity for restaurant operators. Offering branded pizzas at supermarkets and other retail outlets can help restaurants build their name recognition beyond the reach of the areas served by their bricks-and-mortar locations; it can also boost their positioning among loyal customers as a convenient, anytime meal option. Indeed, 43% of UK consumers said they would like their favourite restaurant brand to offer chilled pizza at retail, and 35% say the same for frozen pizza.” More than half (49% of men and 62% of women) said they would like more restaurants to offer pizza by the slice; a third would like to see more portable, handheld pizza snack options. Further, a majority of consumers (55%) said they prefer to build their own pizzas, and two fifths reported regularly ordering “half-and-half” pizzas that they can share with others. More healthy ingredient choices and ingredients that boasted quality/health halos generated significant interest, too. Almost half (46%) of consumers said they would like restaurants to offer more-healthful pizza ingredients, and around two fifths said the use of natural or organic (40%) and local (36%) ingredients was important in creating a good pizza.
Eataly opens flagship Milan site – restates intention to come to London: Eataly has opened a flagship 5,000 square metre site in Milan and restated its intention to open in London. Eataly, which is dedicated to high-quality Italian food and wine, has 25 food emporiums in the United States, Turkey, Japan and Dubai. The 5,000 square metre new outlet, one of the chain’s largest, is important for the company, as Milan is Italy’s “most metropolitan” city, where it previously had only one 250 square metre store, founder Oscar Farinetti said. “From here we will branch out around the world, to Moscow, Sao Paolo, London, Paris, Los Angeles,” he said. Farinetti expects the new site to reach a turnover of €40m (£33.4m) a year. Eataly has been linked to an opening in Selfridges in 2016.
Scottish doctors call for e-cigarette ban: Electronic cigarettes should be banned in enclosed public places and sales to under-18s prohibited as part of efforts to protect public health, Scottish doctors have said. The British Medical Association’s (BMA) conference in Clydebank heard that the devices were being used by primary school children and could encourage them to take up tobacco. Doctors voted in favour of a motion calling for e-cigarettes to be included alongside normal cigarettes in legislation banning them from use in public places. A number of companies, including Starbucks, JD Wetherspoon and Fuller Smith & Turner, have banned e-cigarettes on their premises.
Taxi driver to star in show highlighting hidden London culinary hotspots: A taxi driver is set to become one of London’s best-known food critics after being chosen to star in a new TV show. Joey Bone, 34, from Croydon, will share his knowledge of the capital’s “hidden” culinary hotspots as one of the experts on Food Junkies. The show will appear weekly on London Live, the capital’s new TV station, which launches on 31 March. It aims to highlight the people cooking the food that ordinary Londoners love to eat.
Pizza Hut launches Hut.Cafe in India: Pizza Hut has launched a Hut.Cafe coffee store-within-store concept in India, in the cities of Chennai and Calcutta, and plans ten more by the end of the year. The move is aimed at increasing the appeal of existing Pizza Hut sites. Sanjiv Razdan, general manager for Pizza Hut India, said: “During tough times, one of the things we have done is to try and reach out to a whole new segment of customers. The Hut.Cafe will help in getting customers who just go out for coffee and snacks between meals.” The company has its own range of products and has worked on speciality Indian coffees, but is also open to working with different brands to bring in their signature products to Hut.Cafe tables, Razdan said.
Low pay protesters take different tack in battle with McDonald’s in US over basic wages: Organisers of protests seeking higher pay for fast-food workers in the United States have shifted their attention to another issue: “wage theft.” Protesters planned to rally outside McDonald’s restaurants in cities including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami to call attention to the denial of overtime pay and other violations they say deprive workers of the money they are owed. McDonald’s said in a statement that its restaurants remain open today and every day thanks to the teams of dedicated employees serving our customers. The actions are part of an ongoing campaign by union organisers to build public support for pay of $15 an hour.
‘Craft’ beer hits 14.3% value share of US market: Craft beer’s share by value of the total US beer market reached 14.3% in 2013, up by a fifth on 2012, as its volume share rose to 7.8%, an 18% increase on the previous year, according to the US Brewers Association. The total retail value from craft brewers was estimated at $14.3bn, up from $11.9bn in 2012. Bart Watson, staff economist, at the Brewers Association, said: “With this stellar year, craft has now averaged 10.9% growth over the last decade. Beer drinkers are excited about what small and independent brewers are offering and that is evidenced by the rising production and sales of the craft segment.” The number of operating breweries in the US in 2013 hit 2,822, after 413 new brewery openings and 44 closings.
Popolo Leisure collapses into administration: Popolo Leisure, the north east of England bar and restaurant operator, has gone into administration, just two years after it acquired half the holdings of another north east operator, Principle Leisure. At the time of its collapse, Popolo operated the Popolo bars in Newcastle upon Tyne, the San Lorenzo restaurant in Gosforth, and the River Bar and Ristorante Fume in Washington, Tyne and Wear. The Newcastle Popolo has now closed, with 21 staff made redundant. However, Administrators have been called in at Popolo Leisure and 21 staff at the bar have now been made redundant. However, administrator Lee Pryor said the San Lorenzo restaurant and the Popolo in Sheffield had been sold and the jobs saved .He said: “It is always difficult closing down an operation and making redundancies. We are, however, pleased to have secured the employment of the 46 staff associated with the businesses in Gosforth and Sheffield.” In February 2012, 300 jobs were saved after Popolo Leisure, which is based in Gosforth, bought the Popolo Newcastle, Popolo Sheffield, San Lorenzo Gosforth, San Lorenzo Cramlington and Establishment Sunderland, from the former Principle Leisure (North East) group out of administration. Principle Leisure went into administration in April 2011 after suffering cashflow difficulties because of the opening and refurbishment of several new outlets and the downturn.
Giggling Squid sets opening date in Horsham, Nando’s confirms site in the town: The Thai chain Giggling Squid has set an opening date of 15 April in Horsham, West Sussex, where it is taking over a former Giraffe site. Giggling Squid owner Andy Laurillard told The County Times: “I love Horsham. We looked at six different sites in the town over the last few years – Town Hall, Nando’s site, an Italian on Denne Road, the Buenos Aires unit, and a Greek restaurant off the main square. I couldn’t make the numbers work until Giraffe came up. Since we put the sign up in the window, I have had a load of welcoming emails from Horsham residents.” In other moves in the town, an application has been submitted to Horsham Council by Nando’s to sell alcohol. The restaurant chain has acquired a unit in The Old King’s Head Hotel, next to ASK Italian. In addition the Argentine steakhouse chain Buenos Aires is due to open in the summer, occupying the former Octopus bar site opposite the existing Bill’s.
Former Marco Pierre White manager to launch fresh food concept: James Hagger, who has ten years’ experience running Marco Pierre White’s The Angel in Lavenham, Suffolk, is to launch a new concept called Grab It Fresh Food on Newmarket Road in Cambridege. Grab It will offer a delivery service to local businesses as well as providing a wide range of gluten and dairy-free products. Hagger said: “In this day and age you can’t assume customers will come to you, so we will take our business to them to suit the fast paced needs of modern day life.”
Wagamama, Prezzo, GBK sign up for PayPal app features: Three restaurant chains, Wagamama, Prezzo and Gourmet Burger Kitchen are using PayPal’s new “Order Ahead” and “Pay at Table” features. PayPal said: “Diners can choose and order their Wagamama take-out through the app, saving time when they collect it from one of the 107 Wagamama restaurants. They can also pay for their meal at their table at almost 200 Prezzo restaurants through the app, with the option of splitting the bill with their friends, all through their smartphones. Customers save time by not having to wait for the waiter/waitress to bring the bill and get a card machine to take payment. People ordering their meal at Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s 60 restaurants can now leave their wallets at home and pay with their PayPal profile picture, following the success of paying by profile picture at GBK’s Richmond restaurant in 2013.” Richard Tallboy, director of business development at Wagamama, said: “Allowing customers to order ahead and pay for their take-out through the PayPal app makes the experience more convenient for our customers. Payment is already sorted so they just need to pick up their food and enjoy!” Christian Poole, marketing director at Prezzo, said: “PayPal has helped us give customers the control to view, split and pay the bill directly on their mobile phone. We’ve increased our sales, customer insights and satisfaction.” Katie McDermott, marketing director at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, said: “With counter service at GBK, the facility for customers to check in and pay with their PayPal profile picture has made the transaction faster and easier and we’ve got to know more of our customers by name!”
Greene King to open new-build Hungry Horse in Hartlepool next month: Greene King is to open a new-build Hungry Horse in Hartlepool at the end of April. The Stag and Monkey, being built on the corner of Belle Vue Way and Brenda Road in Hartlepool, will create 70 full and part-time posts when it opens at the end of April. Hartlepool Council gave planning permission last summer for Greene King Developments to build on the former derelict site, opposite Tees Bay Retail Park, off one of the main roads into the town centre. Work started last autumn and it was initially due to open for business in March. Greene King reports the opening will now be next month.
Restaurant operators line up for revamped LeisureWorld in Hemel Hempstead: At least five leading restaurant brands are lined up for LeisureWorld in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, which is undergoing a major refurbishment. Among the brands lined up to move in are Nando’s, Restaurant Group’s Coast To Coast, the Mexican brand Chiquito’s, Frankie and Benny’s and Greene King’s Hungry Horse. A spokesman for the owner, Tesco Pensions Trust, said: “We are really excited about the chance to provide a great new facility for the community. Internal strip-out works have started on site and we hope that most of the work will be finished by the autumn.”
Howard Shultz – Starbucks sourcing ‘higher quality coffee than at any other time in its history’: Starbucks’ chief executive, Howard Shultz, has told shareholders that the company is “sourcing higher quality coffee than at any other time in company history”. That sourcing comes courtesy of Starbucks’ recent acquisition of Hacienda Alsacia, a 240-hectare coffee farm in Costa Rica that is now acting as a global agronomy and research centre. Schultz said the working farm is actively refining Starbucks Coffee and Farmer Equity (CAFE) Practices model and responsible growing practices, and housing a nursery of more than 160,000 hybrid seedlings. He said the company will continue to evolve its Starbucks Reserve program by the autumn, with new packaging and offerings. Starbucks Reserve includes small batch coffee available to customers by the half-pound or cup with the company’s patented Clover brewing system. “This coffee is special, it’s exotic; the likes of which the marketplace hasn’t seen before,” Schultz said. “We’re not going to allow any competitor to take [coffee leadership] away from us. This coffee is going to wow our customers. I can assure you with this breakthrough innovation, we’re going to have coffee that is second to none.” Meanwhile, Starbucks is preparing a global marketing blitz in an attempt to dominate the tea shop market, as it has with coffee, as part of a wider plot to double its commercial value to $100bn (£60.4bn). The company, the world’s biggest coffee chain by sales, said the tea market was “ripe” for innovation. It said Starbucks was well positioned to exploit the $90bn (£54.4bn) hot and iced tea category through its Teavana brand.
Prezzo promises to re-open fire-ravaged Harrogate site: The restaurant chain Prezzo has promised to reopen in Harrogate after a fire ravaged its ground floor premises, and first floor flats in the town centre, an incident local MP Andrew Jones said was a “hammer blow” for those affected. A decision will be made on whether the building should be demolished when insurers complete their own evaluations. Staff were inside the restaurant in preparation for opening when the fire started in the kitchen. It grew in ferocity, spread to the first floor and caused fire damage to four flats above the restaurant and to the roof. Asked if the chain was committed to reopening in Harrogate, a spokesman said: “A new Prezzo will definitely open on the site.” A PizzaExpress outlet next door, which was undergoing refurbishment, was also badly damaged in the fire.
New Sheffield hotel opens with Marco Pierre White restaurant: A new hotel that will feature a Marco Pierre White New York Italian diner has opened in Sheffield’s old West Bar police station. The Hampton by Hilton is a £9m 18-month conversion of the seven-storey building, which was constructed in 1965 and closed as a police headquarters in 2011. With 142 bedrooms, it joins Hilton Worldwide’s brand of more than 1,900 mid-priced hotels. The new hotel is managed by Interstate Hotels & Resorts. The adjacent Marco Pierre White New York Italian-style diner opens on Monday (24 March).
Sussex operators re-open former Marco Pierre White pub: The Sussex-based operators behind The Royal Oak in Poynings and The Fountain in Ashurst, Sussex have re-opened The Rainbow Inn in Cooksbridge, Sussex, which was briefly part of Marco Pierre White’s Wheeler’s of St James’s chain. White entered into a partnership with the then owners of the Rainbow in January 2012, but quit and withdrew the Wheeler’s branding in October that year amid claims that the menu, including steak with garlic snails at £22.50 a pop, was too much for locals. The new operators said: “The emphasis will be very much on simple, quality dining based on classic pub staples with some more adventurous offerings. Work is already under way to enhance the gardens at the rear of The Rainbow Inn and the spring and summer months will see weekend barbecues and a marquee for quieter private functions.”
Caffe Nero secures prestigious Cheshire location: Caffe Nero has secured a prestigious new site in the affluent Cheshire village of Alderley Edge. The company has confirmed it is taking the lease at 38 London Road, which until recently was occupied by The Wedding Shop, and it hopes to open in seven or eight weeks time. A Caffe Nero spokesperson said “We can confirm that we have identified a site in Alderley Edge and are hoping to open our first coffee house there at the beginning of May.”
Restaurant opening schedule for Telford’s Southwater development unveiled: The restaurant opening schedule at the £250m Southwater development in Telford, Shropshire has been unveiled. A Premier Inn will open in April. The Cineworld Imax cinema, as well as PizzaExpress, Harvester, Chimichanga, Zizzi, Bella Italia, Nando’s and Wagamama, will open during July and August. Telford and Wrekin Council’s leader, Kuldip Sahota, said: “The aim of the Southwater development has always been to rejuvenate the town centre and create a vibrant night-time economy.”
Belfast boutique hotel with two restaurants gets go-ahead: Plans for a boutique hotel in Belfast containing two restaurants have been given the go-ahead. The 100-year-old Scottish Mutual Building, located on the corner of Bedford Street and Donegall Square and opposite Belfast City Hall, will undergo a £12m transformation into a 40-room boutique hotel, to include conference space, two bars and two restaurants. A function room for 120 people is planned for the second floor, which will offer views over City Hall gardens, with two other smaller function rooms in the pipeline. Tullymore House, which owns and runs the Galgorm Resort and Spa in Ballymena, is developing the proposal, with plans for the hotel to open in the summer of 2016.
Milltown Brewing re-open Huddersfield pub after co-investment with Punch Taverns: The Milltown Brewing Co has re-opened the Dusty Miller in Huddersfield after a major investment with landlord Punch Taverns. Licensee Neil Moorhouse said: “[Our] new ales are proving really popular and our sales have increased; especially the Milltown Brewing Co’s Platinum Blonde. Customers like the fact that they have a choice of six local and national ales.” Milltown began brewing in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield in 2011
Wetherspoon to open in Billingham next month: JD Wetherspoon is to open its new pub in Billingham, County Durham (population 35,700) on 15 April. The Half Moon Inn, a £1.2m development that is creating 50 new jobs, is in Billingham’s West Precinct, on the site of a former bookshop. Sally Makinson, the architect behind the pub’s design, said: “The internal references are taken from the fact ICI built a huge manufacturing plant in Billingham – so the interior will have slight references of an old chemist or apothecary shop, but still retaining Wetherspoon’s traditional pub values.” The project has taken 12 weeks to complete. The name of the pub comes from an old Billingham inn that closed in 1908 and was later demolished. The history of the building will be commemorated by a plaque which will be on display outside the pub. Meanwhile, the name of Bishop’s Stortford’s new Wetherspoon pub, which is due to open next month, has been changed. It was announced in January that the watering hole in Riverside was to be called The Anchor Inn. However, the pub chain now says it will be called The Port Jackson, after Sir George Jackson, who funded completion of the River Stort Navigation in the 1700s.
Underground area for restaurants and bars in Bradford proposed: Plans have been announced to convert a little-known warren of tunnels beneath Bradford city centre into a bar and restaurant area. Graham Hall, of the developer Sunbridge Wells, has worked with architects to come up with a plan for around 12,000 sq ft of space beneath the Sunbridge Road area, near to City Park. A website to promote the development says: “We are creating Bradford’s first underground market right in the heart of Bradford’s historic trading quarter. With easy access from City Park and Sunbridge Road, Sunbridge Wells will become a shopping and leisure area right in the centre of Bradford, linking the area from the new City Park to the Arndale Mall. We will become Bradford’s own Victorian quarter incorporating Victorian and contemporary shop units together with trading street barrows, restaurants and bars all in a setting in keeping with the history and ambiance of Bradford.”
Manchester operator plans new Northern Quarter concept: The team behind The Kosmonaut bar on Tariff Street in Manchester is set to open a new Northern Quarter venture on Stevenson Square in August. The opening of the Ply bar and restaurant will see the redevelopment of a 5,500sq ft ground floor unit at 26 Lever Street, just off Stevenson Square, and opposite Fred Aldous on Lever Street, into “a bright, creative multi-purpose venue”. Director Joe Fearnhead said: “Ply is a fresh new concept, completely distinct from the current Northern Quarter offering, with some show-stopping elements. It’s a flexible space, with defined areas designed to cater for drinkers, diners, coffee meetings and lazy afternoons.” Meanwhile, Steve Pilling, owner of the Liquorice bar on King Street in Manchester and the Damson restaurant at MediaCityUK is soon to open Guilty By Association, a new bar beneath Ply in the old Paris Wholesale unit.
Sunderland operator expands with champagne bar: Sunderland operator Sean Maddison has expanded by opening Tiger Lily Champagne Bar in the West Sunniside area, above Bar Justice. Maddison said: “There are traditional pubs and bars in Sunderland, but we wanted to give people a different option.” The bar, which features booths for groups, will initially only open on Friday and Saturday nights, with prices starting at £6 for a glass of champagne and from £25 for one of the cheaper bottles.
Bar entrepreneurs to open third site: Husband-and-wife bar entrepreneurs Tim Sedgewick and Brownwyn Riley will open their third site today. The old Dancer, a continental style café-bar is opening on Grove Street, Wilmslow, in the premises previously occupied by the ST Lounge lap-dancing club. The Old Dancer will be offering local draft real ales, world beers, wines and food. It has a first-floor events lounge, with a second bar. The couple’s other businesses include the Treacle Tap, which they opened in Macclesfield in 2010, and The Young Pretender, which they opened in Congleton in 2012. Tim Sedgwick said: “Each of the venues has a similar drinks range but the bars have a very individual feel, as each conversion has used as much as possible from the building’s previous use. In Wilmslow this means a discreet nod to the venue’s dancing history in its decor! However this is an altogether more chaste operation, with family-friendly facilities for the day time and events such as chess club, book club and language conversation groups in the evenings.”
Pickled Walnut plans acquisition of its own venues: Pickled Walnut, the Merseyside-based catering and events company, has announced plans for acquiring its own venues, after investors bought a 50% stake in the firm, for a five-figure sum. The company currently manages the cafe at Liverpool’s Florrie and also caters for more than 20 different venues throughout the North West of England for private, corporate and civic clients, including Liverpool Town Hall and St George’s Hall in Liverpool, Hoghton Tower in Blackpool and Manchester Cathedral. The investment will see the creation of an all-encompassing hospitality group under the control of a new holding company called J2M2S. It will be run by Pickled Walnut’s existing director, Jamie Anderson, alongside a new managing director, investor Jamie Lyne, a Yorkshire-based leisure entrepreneur. Other directors in the new company include Simon Ryan, a business and growth expert in the hotel and leisure sector, who has taken the role of finance director.
Osbourne Leisure buys leasehold pub: Osbourne Leisure, led by Mark Arrol, has acquired the leasehold interest in The Malt Shovel pub and restaurant in Brearton, an affluent residential village five miles north of Harrogate town centre, off an asking price of £80,000 through the property agent Christie + Co. The Malt Shovel is an established traditional pub/restaurant known for its food, currently being refurbished.
Roadchef to open McDonald’s branch at Cumbrian motorway services: The motorway services operator Roadchef is opening a McDonald’s franchise as part of the major refurbishment of its Killington Lake site on the M6 in Cumbria. It will be the 15th McDonald’s at a Roadchef site in the UK, with the first having opened in 2008 at Strensham services on the M5. The company said the opening of a McDonald’s franchise is expected to bring with it increased footfall and sales. Paul Matthews, Roadchef’s area director at the Killington Lake site, said: “The investment in the catering facilities will undoubtedly bring more customers through the doors, so to meet the increase in demand we are recruiting around 50 new team members. Each successful applicant will embark on an industry-leading training programme allowing them to develop their skills in specific areas of catering and customer service.”
Turtle Bay announces Birmingham launch date: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean-themed restaurant chain, has announced 18 April as the date for the opening of its new outlet in Birmingham. The chain has spent more than £900,000 on the 5,000 sq ft, 130-cover restaurant on the corner of John Bright Street in Birmingham city centre. The launch has created 65 jobs so far, with more posts yet to be filled. General manager Chris Halford said the launch would be a welcome addition to the city’s restaurant scene. “This significant investment demonstrates Turtle Bay’s confidence in the Birmingham leisure market,” he said. “The second city has a sound reputation for the quality of its restaurants and we’re looking forward to introducing the Turtle Bay to Birmingham’s food lovers.”
Brasserie Blanc hosts launch of Tour de France beer: A beer named in honour of the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour de France was launched at the Brasserie Blanc in Leeds yesterday. Stage Winner is brewed by the Little Valley Brewery in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, which will see Stage Two of the opening leg of the Tour de France passes by the brewery as the route winds up England’s longest continuous gradient, at Cragg Vale, on 6 July. It was named by the cycling couple behind the brewery, Sue Cooper and Dutch master brewer Wim van der Spek, to honour British cycling pioneer Brian Robinson, born in Huddersfield in 1930, the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour de France, in 1958. Mr Robinson, along with brewery owners and members of the Yorkshire beer and cycling communities, saw the beer unveiled at Brasserie Blanc in Leeds, one of the outlets where it will be stocked.
Wahaca operator hits £1m profit mark before finance charges: The Mexican chain Wahaca, which was founded by Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers and whose ownership vehicle is called Oaxaca, has reported turnover rose more than 40% to £22.5m in the 53 weeks ended 30 June 2013, up from £14.59m the year before. Profit before finance charges rose to £1.01m from £373,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was £417,000, up from £60,500 the year before. The company said: “The increase in turnover was primarily due to the full-year effect of sites opened in the prior year and to new sites opening during the period and the existing sites also experiencing growth in sales. We believe that the Wahaca concept offers customers a unique experience that gives us a competitive advantage.” A dividend of £104,000 was recommended. Wahaca, which trades from 13 London locations, has an offer “born of a love of fresh, honest, Mexican market food”.
Hillbrooke Hotels site on the market: The leasehold interest in The Elephant at Pangbourne, Berkshire, operated by Hillbrooke Hotels, has been placed on the market though the property agent Fleurets with a guide price of £230,000. The property has £950,000 in annual net sales, after a major refurbishment. It has 22 themed guestrooms, a 70-cover restaurant and a bar. Will Thomas of Fleurets said: “The Elephant hotel represents an excellent opportunity for somebody to acquire a busy and well presented, yet multi-faceted business in a popular and affluent part of the country.”
Rescue plan announced for Brazilian restaurant chain: The parent company of the Brazilian restaurant chain Tropeiro, which entered administration earlier this year, is set to enter a company voluntary arrangement (CVA). Camboriu Restaurants, which is based in Chester, will leave administration if creditors back the plans. The agreement is expected to secure the ongoing trading of the company’s five restaurants in Aberdeen, Chester, Glasgow, Nottingham and Sheffield and most of the jobs at the business. Tropeiro also had a restaurant in Carlisle, which closed suddenly in January. Administrator Ian Wright of WRI Associates said: “We have reached agreement with the director and he has now left the business. We hope to issue proposals to creditors this week, which, if accepted, would allow the company to exit administration via a company voluntary arrangement and, we hope, achieve a significant return to creditors. It is expected that this will secure the ongoing trading of the five remaining restaurants and most, if not all, of the jobs in these restaurants. Clearly this is a very positive outcome and we are very grateful to the staff, the company’s suppliers and landlords and particularly the restaurants customers for their continued support.”
Douglas Jack – the budget was positive for pubs on numerous counts: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has hailed the Budget as positive for pubs on numerous counts. He said: “The 1p a pint reduction in beer duty, the termination of the duty escalator on all alcohol, with duty frozen on standard cider and Scottish whisky [are all positive]. Increases in income tax personal allowances and changes to NIC rules/pension access can only help customer cash flow; and increased capital allowances should reward investment. Last year, 3.97 billion pints of beer were sold in the on trade. Of this, 3.0bn pints were sold in pubs, on which the 1p/pint duty reduction should be worth £30m. Across the on and off trade, £3.4bn of excise duty was paid last year on 7.8bn pints (50.8% on trade; 49.2% off trade), equivalent to 43p/pint. Many operators will pass on the cut, albeit against a backdrop of annual price increases that reflect higher costs and wholesale prices from the brewers. The saving was also 1% for Fuller, Smith & Turner and Greene King. Even though all the quoted managed operators are trading ahead, we will not upgrade forecasts to reflect the budget: the changes largely mean that drink prices will not have to increase as much; and forecasts allow for tougher comps for the pubs over the summer. Over-taxation and over-regulation are the main causes of pub closures. Fortunately, the Chancellor appears to understand that this, but Labour and the Liberal Democrats still blame the beer tie (a possible post-election risk) even though the free trade’s annualised pub closure rate (6.6%) was twice the tied tenanted sector’s (3.4%) during March-December 2013. Trading should be moving further ahead; the UK was under snow this time last year. Although comps will soon become tougher, we believe there is underlying momentum that is driven by operational improvement and customer demand rather than weather. Our key buys are Domino’s Pizza (buy 710p) and Spirit Pub Company (buy 110p), which we believe offer above-average growth and scope to re-rate.”